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Parental knowledge of teen vaccine recommendations lacking

A new poll suggests that many parents don't know whether their child is up-to-date on vaccines

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Many parents aren’t clear on when their teen is due for their next vaccine, a new report suggests.

Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed 614 parents with at least one teenager and found that 33 percent of them had no idea when their teens' next vaccine was required.

Roughly half of parents polled assumed their child’s doctor would schedule the vaccines at the appropriate time, just like when their children were little. But in reality, it doesn’t always work like that.

Teen vaccine rates low

“When kids are little, their pediatricians usually schedule visits to coincide with the timing of recommended vaccinations,” said poll co-director Sarah Clark.

Clark pointed out that as children get older, well-child visits occur less frequently, and doctors “may not address vaccines during brief visits for sickness or injury.”

“Many teens may be missing out on important vaccines simply because families aren’t aware it’s time for one,” she said.

Only a third of teens have received the second dose of the meningitis vaccine by age 17, and less than half of teenage boys aged 13 to 17 years have received the complete human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series, according to data from the CDC.

Less than half of adolescents receive an annual flu vaccine. But despite these low numbers, more than 90 percent of parents surveyed believed their teen had received all vaccines recommended for their age.

Need for doctor proactivity

The researchers said parents may not be up to speed on vaccine recommendations for adolescents because few states have vaccine requirements for high schoolers, unlike elementary-aged children.

This lack of awareness may influence changes to the adolescent vaccination schedule in the coming years, Clark noted.

“Parents rely on child health providers to guide them on vaccines – in early childhood and during the teen years,” she said. “Given the general lack of awareness about adolescent vaccines shown in this poll, there is a clear need for providers to be more proactive for their teen patients.”

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